A Fairfax County, Virginia, high school will have a new name for the 2024-25 school year.
The school board voted unanimously to change the name of W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax to Carter G. Woodson High. The approval comes after months of public feedback, the end of a process that started with some community members expressing concerns about the school’s namesake.
W.T. Woodson is named after Wilbert Tucker Woodson, the school district’s second-longest serving superintendent. However, historical documents revealed that he opposed desegregation. In a letter to a school board member, Woodson wrote the “order to desegregate schools is highly improper and infringes on human rights.”
In September, several school board members sponsored a request to start the process of a name change.
The school’s new namesake, Carter G. Woodson, is often considered the father of African American history, and is credited with creating the first journals documenting that history.
“It is wonderful that we are taking off the name of a person who stood for segregation, and putting on the name of a person who fought for the inclusion of Black history, who fought for writing Black history, for making sure people knew Black history, are celebrating the history of African Americans and in our community and in the United States,” Board member Rachna Sizemore Heizer said.
As part of the renaming process, the school system held two community meetings, two public hearings and had two online feedback forms. Supporters of the name change said it would give the county a chance to correct a mistake.
Some opponents said that while they didn’t agree with W.T. Woodson’s views on segregation, they didn’t think a name change was warranted.
Board member Karl Frisch called the change inspiring.
“I’ve heard some people say, ‘We don’t even think about the W.T.,'” Frisch said at Thursday’s school board meeting. “Well, how special will it be to be able to think about the name of the school and be inspired?”
School board member Megan McLaughlin, meanwhile, said the name change is coming at the perfect time.
“Our nation is having a national debate on Black history, teaching Black history, teaching the painful aspects of our history,” McLaughlin said. “Carter G. Woodson is the one who helps this nation start to capture, collect and present that Black history is our history.”